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Spinner Rack: "The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!" — Part Three




Posted by Joanna Sandsmark on 3/5/2013

For the last two months we’ve been delving into “The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!” found in Mystery in Space #87 from November 1963. The story began with a bunch of scientific-sounding mumbo-jumbo about Zeta beams and null-Zeta beams.

Basically, Alanna's father found a way for Adam Strange to remain on the planet Rann. This is very good news for Alanna and Adam and their interplanetary love. It's bad news for his hat size when his head grows into a giant, egg-shaped, bald eyesore. While Adam (a.k.a. Super-Adam, a.k.a. Future-man, a.k.a. Homo Superior) does lots of super smart things and says lots of super smart nonsense, Alanna cries. Adam builds a giant computer machine to send the civilization of Rann 100,000 years into the future and then begins talking about spheres. Alanna runs away and sees weird light things in the sky that irradiate people, causing them to glow and become unable to eat fruit. Adam makes a weird Christmas wreath / spiky round thing to solve the irradiating problem and has a major fight with Alanna. He breaks up with her, causing yet more weeping.

Egghead Adam flies off to eliminate the "deadly frequencies," then perfect a better mode of travel. He's got an idea on how to improve the Zeta beam. As he approaches the energy things, he holds his weird-looking weapon in front of him and thinks, "My other self — that backward, puny Adam Strange I once was — could never have constructed such a marvelous weapon as this! All he had to rely on were his ’quick wits’!" [Personally, I find it odd that his massively superior, future brain came up with such a lame-looking weapon. It looks like something a person would try to sell at a rummage sale for a quarter and get quickly bargained down to a dime.]

Meanwhile, the ugly, no-brain Alanna is about to outsmart Homo Superior. She realizes that anything her father did she could undo! So she does. Apparently all she needed to do was point at the machine vigorously — or, at least that's what the picture looks like. Her timing, however, sucks.

Just as Future-Man is readying to use his space-age round spiky thing to get rid of the energy things, he is suddenly engulfed in energy himself. His brain shrinks back to normal size and, miraculously, his hair grows back instantaneously (and in a perfect coif). I think they need to harness this energy brain growing and shrinking thing for its Rogaine-ish qualities. They'd be richer than Croesus in no time. (Was that too dated a reference? Richer than Bill Gates? The Koch brothers? Insert the name of any rich person here — how's that?)

Despite the fact that Adam hasn't got a clue how to use the round spiky thing, the sky-emanations are only half as strong as they were before. He immediately returns to the laboratory, asking who turned off the juice. Alanna runs into his arms and confesses. He chastises her as they clutch. "But, Honey — do you know what you've done? As a Super-Adam I could have easily destroyed those dangerous frequencies! But now —"

"You've got to do it as your real self — as you would have done if you'd never undergone that experiment!"

"In the face of such love and confidence, Adam can only grin weakly…"

I think I like him better as Homo Superior. Granted, he treated her very poorly, but when a menace came, he did not spend several panels kissing and making out instead of trying to defeat the menace. Even Alanna's dad says, "I hate to break in on this ‘kiss and make-up scene' — but the emanations are moving closer to Ranagar by the moment!" You tell'em, Padre!

Adam decides they need to stop the emanations before they turn more "…people into helpless, glowing creatures!" Yeah, helpless glowing creatures are so darned needy. All they want is fruit. Instead of racing off to do battle, Adam says there was something familiar about the emanations. After double-checking in the lab, he confirms they were identical to the brain waves he recorded when he became Super-Adam. "…The sky-frequencies were the result of the super-powerful brain waves I gave off when I was doing my super-thinking! Thought is electrical in nature. My thoughts were so powerful they caused an electrical phenomenon to occur!"

Let me get this straight: His superior brain caused giant brain waves in the sky that turned people into glowing things whose touch destroyed anything in which they came in contact. What the heck was Super-Adam thinking, anyway? Does he secretly wish that everyone on the planet would go on a galactic diet? Is he anti-fruit? Does he harbor a deep hatred of Rann? Does he prefer people when they glow? Why is no one in the comic asking these questions?

Instead, they are discussing every detail of the sky-emanations and Super-Adam. When he was doing his most excellent thinking, the sky-emanations were at their strongest. When he was turned back into normal, hairy-headed Adam, they went to half strength. Super-Adam is no more, so why are the sky-emanations still there? Adam has the answer. The computer is still processing the brain waves from Super-Adam. Alanna's dad comes up with an immediate solution: "…by destroying the computer — we can do away with the sky-frequencies!" [I wish the author had settled on a name for the sky-frequencies/sky-emanations/light-patterns/radiations/terrible menace/deadly frequencies/destructive emanations/odd frequencies/sky-radiations and I probably missed a few. Nothing like creating a brand-new menace and never deciding on what to call it.] Adam explains that they don't need to destroy the computer to stop the menace. They simply need to unplug it.

With the heroic pulling of the plug from the electrical socket, Adam Strange enters the annals of Rann once again as both the Savior and cause of the whatever-you-feel-like-calling-it. Alanna and Adam don their jet packs to go out to help rebuild the city that was destroyed by the sky-things (why does he wear a hood / helmet with a cock's crest on it and she lets her long dark hair blow in the breeze? I need to know in case I ever get a jet pack).

While there, Adam finds "an odd rock" that he picks up. It is a white rock striped pink and black. He thinks it was affected by the sky-radiation, which gave it that striped appearance. Suddenly, he starts to fade away, which means the Zeta beam radiation is wearing off. Alanna sees it happening and thinks, "And — he's taking that odd rock with him!"

Adam, standing on Earth, says out loud to no one, "Since I can transport inanimate objects back and forth with me — the rock came here when I did!" In the next panel, days later, we see the rock in a glass case with Adam thinking, "I'll leave it here until I have the time to examine it more closely and determine if it's been affected in any way by those radiations!"

Gee, you think the rock means something? Giving a rock four panels at the end of the story without giving us any indication as to why the rock is given so much attention, screams "oddly unexciting cliffhanger" to me. Just in case others thought it was also unexciting, there is a text box that says "Adam Strange does not know it — but he has unwittingly unleashed a menace on his native planet!" Pretty standard, until you read the box below it. "See the accompanying story — in which Hawkman makes his first appearance in Mystery In Space — for the astounding sequel to this story!"

Sure enough, there is a Hawkman story right after this Adam Strange story, and the striped rock does play an important role in the story. To give you a little hint: there are super brain waves trapped in the rock. Oooh! That sounds great — maybe I'll have to share that story in this column someday. Meanwhile, be sure to come back next month or I'll unleash my brain waves on your city! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

If you'd like to learn more, including a detailed bio and information about Joanna's books, please visit her website.

This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.




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